20 ideas for numeracy across the curriculum

Author: Maria Howard
Published: 04/08/2020
Numeracy image
  1. Understand your context. When developing numeracy across the curriculum, it is crucial for colleagues to feel it is relevant and important to them. Identify key areas of the school development plan and vision. If your plans align with these, you are much more likely to get whole school support and achieve success.

  2. Get the support of the leadership team. Get backing from senior and middle leadership in your school by allowing them to be part of the process, sharing your ideas and asking for their input. Their influence can be the driving force for your initiatives.

  3. Choose one or two key areas to focus on. There are lots of different ways you can develop numeracy in a school. Trying to do all of them at once will most likely mean doing none of them well. Choose one or two things that you want to achieve first. Have a look at the ideas listed later for starting points.

  4. Put together an action plan. It’s easy to dive straight in with your initiatives when you’re really excited about them. However, having an action plan with timings outlining how you will measure impact along with a delegation of responsibilities will allow you to keep on track, even when other things come along to distract you.

  5. Make links with other key departments. The key is numeracy across the curriculum, so make links with other departments. Science is an obvious starting point but numeracy and maths are also integral to geography, business and DT, for example. Review their schemes of work to find opportunities for collaboration.

  6. Link schemes of work across the curriculum. Schemes of work can be linked so maths is taught in preparation for use in other subject areas. Switching around the maths scheme of work so standard form is taught before it is needed in science allows students to deepen and embed their understanding by making connections.

  7. Put together a calculation policy. Having a school-wide approach to standard calculations is a really powerful tool to ensure that student understanding is reinforced, rather than conflicted. Interestingly, it is often within a maths department that the greatest debates over this take place.

  8. Develop a Numeracy across the curriculum policy. A numeracy policy can allow you to share your vision with colleagues. It can detail maths use in other subjects, information to share with parents and initiatives at your school. Here’s a link to one I developed for my last school but you can find examples on the internet.

  9. Make the most of form/tutor time. Those morning slots are valuable opportunities to allow all staff to show students that numeracy is relevant and fun for all. There are lots of different ways to do this, including getting students to play games such as Countdown, focusing on specific areas of numeracy or sharing presentations about numeracy in life. Examples of form time numeracy can be found here.

  10. Enthuse. Take any opportunity to be a champion of numeracy with students and staff alike. We have all heard I couldn’t do maths from other adults so challenge that attitude and share your love of maths and numeracy with those around you.

  11. Make it fun. There are many opportunities to celebrate numeracy throughout the year, from Pi day to National numeracy day. You could have numeracy awards for students completing challenges or being numeracy ambassadors. It’s all about engaging students, especially those who are less enthusiastic about numeracy.

  12. Organise trips. Spending time outside of the school environment showing students the ways numeracy is applied outside of the classroom is lots of fun. Trips can range from a trip to the local supermarket to exploring cryptography at Bletchley Park (Property of Bletchley Park Trust).

  13. Build connections with other schools in your local area. One of the most rewarding things I did during my time as numeracy coordinator was bringing together local schools to share good practice and run competitions. A summary of events and resources we developed together can be found on my website.

  14. Run assemblies. I once got some really good advice which said that students prefer a story to a lecture. Use assemblies to promote numeracy in the form of a story and students are more likely to listen. See my website for specific ideas.

  15. Run CPD. CPD is a valuable way to promote numeracy in your school. An introduction to numeracy across the curriculum is a good starting point but CPD on consistent approaches in maths could be useful in your context. Teachers may want to improve their own numeracy skills and need CPD support. CPD works best when it responds to a need; find that need and tailor your CPD towards it.

  16. Be part of the wider teaching community. There are some amazing educators on Twitter who are all too ready to offer help and ideas. Before embarking on any new initiative, it’s worth searching to see if it’s been tried before and if others have suggestions for how best to make it successful.

  17. Keep up to date with research. There are a lot of great websites and journals that can keep you up to date with developments in the world of numeracy. National numeracy and the Education Endowment Foundation websites publish research. The latter also explores the impact of initiatives on progress.

  18. Engage with parents. Involving parents in the development of their child’s numeracy skills can have a massive impact. Providing information sheets at parents’ evenings can help them to make the most of the countless real-world opportunities to help their child develop key numeracy skills.

  19. Run joint activities with other departments. Help students to see maths links by running activities jointly with other departments. Maths teachers could collaborate to run baking and proportion classes with food, sports challenges with PE or budget for a trip abroad with language teachers. Find more ideas here.

  20. Be adaptable. Should we talk about numeracy? Or mathematics? Opinions on how best to approach numeracy across the curriculum differ. I’m not sure that the name matters, it’s about equipping students with a set of skills they will need in and out of school. How you do this must be regularly reviewed. Build on successes and, if things aren’t working, be prepared to adapt to move forward.
Download Maria Howard's resource 20 ideas for developing numeracy across the curriculum. Maria is also the author of Closing the word gap: mathematics. 
Maria Howard

Maria Howard is a Maths Curriculum Leader, numeracy expert and author and runs Mrs Howard's numeracy network